There’s a lot of confusion about when to start bringing children to the dentist. Grandparents tell you there’s no need for toddlers to see a dentist because baby teeth will fall out anyway; your own general dentist might not accept patients under the age of 3 and the internet has lots of conflicting information. Who can you trust? Well, you can trust the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), both of which state that children should start seeing the dentist by the age of 12 months.
Get It Done in Year One
The AAPD has built an entire campaign around the importance of this first dental visit—Get It Done in Year One. Your child should start seeing the dentist within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth or by 12 months, whichever comes first. That means that even if your little one doesn’t have any teeth at 12 months, they should come in to see us for a check-up.
Older generations may have regarded baby teeth as unimportant, but these days we know better—those little teeth play an important role in children’s development. They allow them to eat healthy, nutritious foods that help their bodies grow strong, they aid in speech development, and they reserve space for the permanent teeth to erupt when the time comes. It’s important to take care of your child’s baby teeth the same way you would take care of their adult teeth.
During your child’s first visit to our office, we will examine their teeth and jaw to ensure that everything is developing properly. We’ll also look for injuries, cavities, and other oral health issues. If your child is cooperative, we may do a gentle dental cleaning, but if not, no worries! We want to make sure your child’s visit is a positive one, so we pay attention to their cues and respect their boundaries.
Establishing a Dental Home
Your child’s first visit isn’t just about assessing their dental health—it’s also about establishing our practice as their dental home. This is a term used to describe the relationship between you, your child, and their dentist. We want your family to feel comfortable with us and view our practice as a source of support, with the same kind of relationship you likely have with your child’s pediatrician. With each visit, your child will become more comfortable and begin to view our office as a place full of friendly faces and familiar routines.
Regular preventive care and dental instruction lays the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles—and preventive care during the toddler years is crucial. The dental costs for children who have had their first dental visit before the age of one are 40 percent lower in the first five years than those who do not see a dentist before 12 months and the likelihood of needing emergency dental care is also much lower.
The dentist you see to manage your own oral health may not start seeing children until they’re in preschool or kindergarten, but a pediatric dentist sees patients from birth all the way to the teen years. A pediatric dental practice is the best dental home for children because we are uniquely equipped to handle the needs of young patients.